May 4, 2012
Creighton Series Notes
The Missouri State softball team (22-24, 10-13) travels to Omaha, Neb. to wrap up the regular season with a three-game series against Creighton (26-22-1, 14-9). The last time MSU played at Creighton, the Bears swept the three-game set in 2010, out-scoring the Bluejays, 12-4.
Missouri State is assured of appearing in this year's State Farm MVC Tournament. The Bears sit as the six-seed going into the final weekend of play. MSU cannot move up and are almost certain to be playing in the #6-#7 matchup next Thursday. The Bears have defeated every Valley opponent that they have played this season, at least once.
The Bears' offensive struggles continued on Wednesday as MSU was no-hit by visiting Arkansas. It was the 19th time the Bears had been no-hit in school history and the third no-hitter at Killian Stadium, twice by opponents and once by MSU's Natalie Rose (may 7, 2011 vs. Evansville).
Creighton enters the weekend on a three-game skid after being swept last weekend at Illinois State. However, the Bluejays have won the last five home games played at the CU Sports Complex.
- Senior Natalie Rose entered the week seventh in the nation in fewest walks allowed per game. She has 24 appearances this season without a walk.
- The last four victories by MSU have been 1-0 complete game shutout wins by Rose.
- Wednesday marked Rose's 150th appearance as a Bear, just two shy of the most in school history.
- Senior Raeven Replogle has 13 sacrifice bunts this season, second-most in the Valley.
- Sophomore Heather Duckworth has a team-leading ten doubles this season. That total is seventh in the league.
- Second baseman Ashley Brentz has 11 multi-hit games this season.
- The Bears swept a three-game series from Creighton in 2010, the last visit to Omaha for MSU.
FOLLOWING THE BEARS
Live Stats: Live stats will be provided by Creighton for all three games of the weekend series. Fans can follow along by clicking the Live Stats link on the softball schedule page at MissouriStateBears.com.
IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
Creighton Bluejays: The Creighton Bluejays have a three-game losing streak, but a five-game home winning streak as the Bears come to town. CU lost all three games at Illinois State last weekend. Creighton is 7-2 at home in MVC games including a three-game sweep of Evansville and a win over Drake as part of a five-game home winning streak. Becca Changstrom leads the Bluejays staff with a 2.37 ERA and has recorded 16 of CU's 26 wins on the year. Offensively, five Bluejay hitters are batting above the .300-mark. Amy Baker .364 average is fourth in the MVC and Alexis Cantu's 14 home runs lead all Valley hitters.
Senior pitcher Natalie Rose struck out Southeast Missouri State's Taylor Cowan to end the fourth inning on Sunday, March 4 for strikeout number 500 of her career. Then on March 24, she struck out Amy Gaertner of Evansville for career strikeout number 546 to take over sole possession of third on the all-time Missouri State list in the category, passing Terri Whitmarsh. Rose struck out Wichita State's Layne Greenlee on April 18 for her 600th career punchout. Rose leads all active Valley pitchers with 633 strikeouts. Illinois State's Jordan Birch is the only other MVC pitcher with more than 600 strikeouts (607).
600 AND COUNTING
Head Coach Holly Hesse won her 600th game at the helm of the softball Bears in her 24th season at MSU in a season-opening 7-2 win against Sam Houston State (February 17). With an overall record of 621-607-2, Hesse entered the season tied for 40th on the all-time victories list among active coaches.
NO FREE PASSES
Pitcher Natalie Rose had her streak of consecutive innings without issuing a walk snapped at 31.2 when she issued a free pass in the fourth inning of the February 26 game vs. Western Illinois. The last walk Rose had issued came in the second inning of the State Farm MVC Tournament Championship game versus Drake on May 14, 2011.
Rose has allowed just 29 bases on balls this season, the fewest walks per game ratio (1.00) in the Valley and entered the week seventh in the nation in fewest walks per seven innings. She has appeared in 24 games in which she hasn't allowed a walk. Rose has had four different spans of at least three-straight games without a walk and had a season-high eight outing stretch from March 24 through April 3 without a base on balls.
Missouri State has three hitters with 19 or more walks this season. Only Creighton and SIU have as many hitters with as many walks. Stevie Pierce and Ashley Brentz lead the Bears with 23 free passes each, with Lauren Eisenreich having 19 bases on balls. Pierce had three consecutive multi-walk games from March 31 through April 3, the only player in the past four seasons to accomplish the feat. Brentz had back-to-back two walk games on March 27 and March 31 and Pierce had back-to-back multi walk games in 2011 (March 9 at North Texas  and March 12 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff ).
SEARCHING FOR A WINNING COMBINATION
Head Coach Holly Hesse has employed 40 different batting orders this season in 46 games. In the 35 games with a unique batting order, MSU is 17-18.
The Missouri State offense has heated up with the official start of spring. On Thursday (March 22) at Eastern Illinois, the Bears tied a season-high with 11 hits and scored five runs in the sixth inning, the highest single inning total of the season. Then on Saturday, March 24 at Evansville, Missouri State continued to sizzle with a six-run fourth inning that led to an 11-run outing, the highest run total since a 14-10 win at Evansville in 2010.
After launching the second-highest MSU single season total of eight home run in 2010, junior Caitlin Chapin has found her power stroke again in 2012. On Saturday, March 24, Chapin blasted a home run in each game of the doubleheader at Evansville to give her a team-leading four dingers this season. She is the only Bear with more than one four-bagger this year. Her 14 career homers is just two shy of fifth in school history.
CAREER DAY 2012
Several returning Missouri State players have had career days already this season. Sophomore Ashley Brentz had her first career four-hit game on opening day (February 17) against Sam Houston State and stole her first base. It was the first four-hit performance by a Bear since another second baseman, Christa Gammon, had four hits in game one of a doubleheader against UNI on May 8, 2010.
On that Sunday (February 19), senior Raeven Replogle had a career-best three-RBI game against South Dakota State. Junior Caitlin Chapin had two stolen bases and sophomore Heather Duckworth scored two runs, both career highs.
At the Blues City Classic in Memphis, Tenn., Brentz and Kirstin Cutter each recorded their first multi-RBI games of their careers. Both feats occurred on Saturday (February 25) as Cutter drove in both runs in the Bears' 2-1 win over Miami (OH). In the nightcap, Brentz drove in two of the four runs in MSU's 4-1 win over SEMO.
On March 24, Brentz scored three times in MSU's 11-2 six inning win at Evansville. The three runs scored was a career-best for the second baseman.
Duckworth had another career day at UMKC on April 3. She drove in three runs in a 4-2 Bears' win. Two of the RBI came in the top of the seventh inning, plating the winning run. She followed that up with another three RBI game against Bradley on April 6.
The Bears played 11 games against teams from power conferences or 2011 NCAA Tournament participants, going 4-7. MSU had victories over Memphis, Iowa State, Illinois State and Kansas. The Bears have played Big 12 foes well, suffering tough losses to then-No. 13 Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas and Tulsa, in extra innings. The 11 games against feisty foes from the Big 12, SEC or a 2011 NCAA Tournament team were against Memphis (1), Missouri (1), Iowa State, (2), Illinois State (3), Kansas (2), Tulsa (1), and Arkansas (1). The first seven games at Killian Stadium were against Big 12 opponents or 2011 NCAA Tournament participants.
The Bears began the season as road warriors with three-straight tournaments and the first 12 games being played away from Killian Stadium. Missouri State went 8-4 in the season-opening road swing.
MVC PRESEASON POLL
The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Defending regular season champion Illinois State is favored with UNI and Southern Illinois sandwiched between ISU and the Bears.
After sweeping through the MVC Tournament in 2011, the Bears will be tasked with repeating that feat in Carbondale, Ill., as SIU will host the 2012 Championship. Missouri State earned its sixth title last season, tied for the most by any school. Hesse has 45 of the Bears' 67 wins in the MVC Tournament, both totals are the best in the Valley.